Tuesday night's presidential debate was good entertainment. Both candidates were animated and loose throughout a wide-ranging discussion. Sen. Barack Obama did well in Sen. John McCain's favorite format. Mr. McCain was more focused and sharp than in the first debate, though the cameras above him made his balding pate more prominent.
Mr. McCain's advocates were cheered by him advancing the theme that Mr. Obama lacks a record of accomplishment or bipartisanship in the Senate. Mr. McCain also described how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac constituted "the match that started this forest fire" that's engulfed our economy, and nailed Mr. Obama and Democrats for being AWOL on GSE reform.
Mr. McCain was most effective on taxes and spending. He argued now is not the time to raise taxes and hit Mr. Obama's proposal to hike small business taxes: three out of four filers in the top 5% report small-business income. Mr. McCain called for a spending freeze and attacked earmarks, including Mr. Obama's $3 million for a Chicago planetarium's "overhead projector." Mr. Obama weakly replied earmarks were only $18 billion.
Advocates of Mr. Obama, on the other hand, saw him scoring points on style and connecting with questioners. He patiently explained to one how the Wall Street rescue package would help him and his neighbors on Main Street. He had the night's emotional high point when he talked about his dying mother fighting her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition. He called for dramatic change and tied Mr. McCain to the Bush administration, though not too often to be obnoxious.
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